With growing pressure on athletes to be the very best in their perspective sport, eating disordered behavior can start at a young age. 13.5% of athletes have been clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder.2 Parents of young athletes can help prevent these disordered eating patterns by educating themselves, coaches and other parents about eating disorders to help recognize them at an early age.
The emphasis placed on low body weight/low body fat in some sports today may confused athletes and increase the risk of inappropriate dieting. Those involved in the lean, aesthetic sports consisting of gymnastics, diving, figure skating, the endurance sports including cycling, distance running, triathlon and the weight-class sports of rowing, wrestling and martial arts seem to be at greatest risk. These athletes are being judged both on appearance and performance, which can lead to eating disordered behavior. “Young athletes are the athletes who are most at risk for several reasons. First, they have most or all of the same risk factors as older athletes, but they have additional ones. While older athletes often have coaches who are informed regarding the identification and treatment of eating disorders in athletes, many youth coaches have not had the same learning opportunities. Additionally, the younger athletes do not have the same level of medical backup provided to older athletes by sports medicine physicians, sport psychologists, and athletic trainers. And, finally, younger athletes are more at risk because they are at a high risk age for developing an eating disorder, especially about the time they begin to be serious about their sport,” said Dr. Ron Thompson, Co-Director of The Victory Program at McCallum Place.
Since young athletes are at risk for developing eating disorders, parents can take steps to help prevent or help those with eating disordered behaviors. By becoming informed about nutritional requirements, healthy weight ranges and the risks of dieting, parents are able to support their children, recommend informational resources and encourage others to educate themselves. When necessary, parents should also be assertive, asking about nutrition requirements for teaching and alerting coaches about noticing behavior changes, as parents know their children best. Lastly, parents should encourage and participate in appropriate and effective treatment for their child athlete. “We know that educated parent involvement in treatment, Family Based Treatment, leads to better outcome in teens,” says Dr. Kim McCallum.
Dr. Kimberli McCallum, MD, FAPA, CEDS, and Medical Director of McCallum Place is a nationally recognized expert in treating eating disorders and has developed several eating disorder treatment programs, including The Victory Program for elite athletes with eating disorders. Dr. Ron Thompson, PhD, and Dr. Roberta Sherman, PhD, are pioneers in the field of treating athletes with eating disorders and have advised both the NCAA and the Olympic committee on these issues. Along with Dr. McCallum, they have created The Victory Program, the first treatment center in the country to specifically treat elite athletes facing eating disorders.
The Victory Program at McCallum Place is located in St. Louis, Missouri, offering evidence based comprehensive treatment in a safe and home like setting. While in treatment, athletes will receive care from a team of eating disorder professionals, including a family practice physician, a psychiatrist, sports psychologist, athletic trainer, therapist and a registered sports dietitian.
McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers is committed to providing quality, accessible care for patients and their family members. Dr. McCallum serves on the board of the National Eating Disorder Association and the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals. She received her medical degree from Yale University and is board certified in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.
Ron A. Thompson, PhD, FAED, is a consulting psychologist for Indiana University Athletics Department and has served as a consultant on eating disorders to the NCAA and on the Female Athlete Triad with the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission. Dr. Thompson regularly speaks to coaches, athletic directors and athletes at universities around the country on the dangers of eating disorders and the increased risks associated with sports.
Roberta Sherman, PhD, FAED, serves as a consultant to Indiana University Athletics Department and the NCAA on eating disorders and other mental health issues of collegiate athletes. Additional, Dr. Sherman has served as a member of the Educational Committee on the Female Athlete Triad for the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee. She is an editorial board member of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention.
Together, Dr. Thompson and Dr. Sherman have coauthored their fourth book, Eating Disorders in Sport. To learn more about The Victory Program at McCallum Place, call 1-888-234-0578, or visit www.victoryprogram.com.